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Intelligent Manufacturing and the role of ERP

At the heart of Industry 4.0 is the smart factory where machine intelligence, advanced networking, and real-time controls offer manufacturers great competitive power.

Through these technological advancements, manufacturers can respond to disruptive trends, get ahead of operational challenges such as equipment maintenance and factory downtime, enter new markets and deliver high quality products.

Futuristic technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), and the rise in process automation have raised the bar for smart manufacturing.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, meanwhile, have revolutionized the way organizations design, plan, and execute their workflow. By integrating ERP systems with emerging technologies such as IoT and AI, manufacturers can create more intelligent operations and further optimize their productivity.

Improving performance is the goal of Intelligent Manufacturing

To improve manufacturing performance, you need to be able to identify opportunities for automating operations. This, with the use of data analytics, is the goal of intelligent manufacturing.

The defining characteristics of intelligent manufacturing are visibility, connectivity and autonomy. Factories have long relied on automation, but smart factories take this concept further and are able to run with less human intervention.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors and devices provide much of the enabling technology, while increasingly sophisticated analytics and smart applications (based on AI and machine learning) take over the routine management tasks. This, in turn, enables workers, managers and executives to focus on handling exceptions and making sound strategic and tactical decisions.

ERP will be at the core of your smart manufacturing operations

The benefits of deploying the right ERP system to future-proof your smart manufacturing operations include:

Improved business automation

ERP helps create a seamless operational environment by integrating data from different departments, thanks to its centralized database. The software provides an easy way to communicate and coordinate tasks between inter-dependent business units.
For example, an integrated ERP system could detect increased production volume from one assembly line and automatically notify the warehouse to make room for it, while also placing orders for additional raw materials.

Enhanced customer experience (CX)

Increased automation results in a quicker and more cost-effective service, and this in turn increases customer satisfaction.

ERP systems could also be deployed to schedule periodic customer follow-ups, gain insights on service capabilities, and track underperforming suppliers and vendors.

As customer experience is immensely valuable to businesses in the digital era, you could also view an investment in ERP as an investment in customer experience.

Insightful decision making

An ERP system is a suite of integrated software modules that facilitates cross-functional interaction. Businesses use this capability to store, manage, and process data on company activities.

Having all the information on one convenient platform offers business leaders a single source of truth, while at the same time providing enterprise-wide visibility.

This level of data enables them to make more informed business and strategic decisions.

ERP integrates with new technologies to enable Smart Manufacturing

IIoT – The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an ecosystem where every device, machine and/or process is connected through data communication systems. Each machine and piece of industrial equipment is embedded or connected with sensors which typically generate the relevant data.

Big Data and Analytics – IIoT data is transferred to the cloud/software systems through data communication systems. This huge amount of data offers a lot of insight which may help in identifying certain dark areas within the production process. After the analysis of the data, it is sent as feedback to the production systems for action.

Security – Smart manufacturing is all about harnessing data that tells you what to do and when to do it. Since smart factories are built around data, cybersecurity, above all, will play an important role in the entire ecosystem of smart manufacturing.
AI – The growth of AI will be driven by the growing usage of big data technology, industrial IoT in manufacturing, extensive usage of robotics in manufacturing, computer vision (AR and VR) technology in manufacturing, cross-industry partnerships and collaborations, and a significant increase in venture capital investments.

Blockchain – The aviation, food & beverage and medical industries, due to stringent rules and regulations, already require full scrutiny of all their suppliers across the value chain. Blockchain could help in maintaining quality control right from the development of raw materials through to the customer.


All of these new technologies have the potential to transform your business, but you may be wondering how your staff will access and view the information, and manage it all. The answer is, simply, “Right where they’re working now, in your ERP system.”

But if you ask, “Is our current ERP system capable of supporting the transformation to Smart Manufacturing?” then sadly then the answer is likely to be “No”, if it’s not a new ERP technology solution like Sage X3.

Few legacy ERP systems currently in use have the necessary capabilities and will fall short of what an Intelligent ERP system can do for Smart Manufacturing. With Sage X3, manufacturers can deliver products to market faster, reduce costs and ensure they are always in sync with customers’ demands.

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